What to Expect After a Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Carpal tunnel release is usually an outpatient procedure, which means that you can go home the same day as the surgery if all goes well. However, this procedure can be done via two methods:

  1. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release (minimally invasive)
  2. Open carpal tunnel release

The recovery differs for each person based on the condition of the median nerve before surgery. The other factors that affect your outcome are age, health factors, and compliance with post-surgical care guidelines.

What to expect after carpal tunnel release surgery?

Pain and Numbness

It is normal to feel pain after any type of surgery and your surgeon will prescribe appropriate pain medications to help you with postoperative pain. However, you might feel tingling and numbness when your hand is in a splint after surgery and these sensations come and go intermittently.


Swelling or joint effusion around the surgical area is very normal and it may last for about a week. Elevate your hand above the level of the heart and move your fingers to reduce swelling.

Recovery Time

Your stitches will be removed after 2 weeks and you may be able to return to most of your low-impact activities of daily living without putting too much pressure on your hand and wrist.

By week 6, you may not have any restrictions in your activities of daily living except for lifting heavy weights or exercises like push-ups, which may take up to 4 to 6 months from the time of surgery. After a year, you might have full strength and range of motion of your hand and wrist.

Scar Formation

After carpal tunnel release surgery, you will have the development of scar tissue on the surgical site. You might notice it as a bump in your hand. This will improve with time and massage.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy will be recommended by your surgeon, following the stitch removal. Initial days could be painful and aggravate the current symptoms, however, physical therapy can help you with stiffness, swelling, pain, restore the range of motion, and improve grip strength over time.


The recovery time may take from a few days up to a few months. During this period, you will have to adjust your work activities, and follow post-op instructions to prevent the recurrence or aggravation of symptoms. Besides, you need to look out for symptoms like fever, chills, redness, swelling, bleeding, or other drainage from the incision site. You need to report this immediately to your surgeon as it may be a sign of infection, which needs to be treated as soon as possible. Stay in touch with your orthopedic surgeon throughout the post-op recovery period so that they can help with your concerns.